Arts

Lafayette Society and FSU partner to present virtual speaker series on notable African American author

08 01 C CHESNUTTThe Lafayette Society and Fayetteville State University are partnering to present the Global Studies Lecture Series. This annual speaker series will be held virtually Feb. 25 and will feature the life and work of Charles W. Chesnutt, a successful African American writer.

This speaker series is hosted by the Lafayette Society and the Departments of Intelligence Studies, Geospatial Sciences, Political Science and History at FSU. This series will be presented by Joshua James, Dr. Maria Orban, Dr. Blanche Radford Curry and Nicholle Young. Each presenter will discuss different aspects of Chestnutt's life, from his upbringing in Fayetteville to his ideas about race and the circumstances of the African American community during the rise of Jim Crow.

Although he also lived in Cleveland, Ohio, most of Chesnutt’s literary works developed from his life here in Fayetteville. Chesnutt attended what is now known as Fayetteville State University when it was called the Howard School. The Howard School was intended to educate African Americans coming out of slavery; it became a top school at the time in the Fayetteville area. Chesnutt served as a principal at the school for a time.

This speaker series aims to detail the historical richness to be found in Chesnutt’s life as it relates to the Fayetteville community. This event will be taking place virtually on Feb. 25 from 7-8 p.m. with Dr. Rob Taber, a history professor and co-advisor for the Black History Scholars Association at FSU, as the moderator.

The Lafayette Society has also started an endowment at FSU for “the Study of the Age of Revolutions, Emancipation and Civil Rights.” When fully funded, proceeds from the endowment will be used for continued educational programming, speaker fees, student grants and faculty support. Anyone interested in contributing to the endowment at FSU can visit www.lafayettesociety.org and go to the “Outreach” tab.

The Lafayette Society was founded in 1981 to bring historical awareness about the city’s past by bringing to life the rich history of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier — the Marquis de Lafayette.

Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military officer who served with George Washington in the Revolutionary War. With his ties to the King of France, he helped the colonists gain their freedom from England. The Lafayette Society was established to help preserve his history and remind Fayetteville of the role its namesake played in the American Revolution. The president of Lafayette Society, Hank Parfitt, describes Lafayette as having a “silver halo of kindness.”

Parfitt believes studying historical figures such as Chesnutt and Lafayette can help us learn more about the efforts of those who came before us in the fight to provide freedom and equality for all our citizens.

Dr. Gwenesta B. Melton, a local medical doctor who serves as a board member in the Lafayette Society, said learning about Lafayette is an interesting endeavor.

“Upon careful review of his life, his stance on human rights for all people was visionary in scope for his time." Dr. Melton said. “As an abolitionist, slavery was abhorrent to him. Realizing half of humankind are women, he recognized the value and worth of women and advocated for our rights. Leadership skills came to him easily and at a young age. All these attributes make General de Lafayette an extraordinary human being.”

“As an African American professional woman, his lessons and visions are just as pertinent now and render a glorious example of how we all can live in a world with peace and harmony. Our Society aims to teach this to all living in Fayetteville.”

Parfitt said the Lafayette Society and FSU share a goal to “inspire students to learn history.” They plan to continue to sponsor this speaker series every February and expand the event to include more educational opportunities.

For more information about the Feb. 25 speaker series on Chesnutt visit www.lafayettesociety.org.

Pictured above:Charles W. Chesnutt

Pictured below:Marquis de Lafayette

08 02 la Fayette

Temporary urban knitting installation celebrates Black History Month at Linear Park

06 01 Installation InnerWoven“InnerWoven” is an urban knitting project curated, designed and executed by Fayetteville’s own fabric artist Kia Love. The installation can be found at Linear Park along Mason Street.

Those willing to take a walk off the beaten path are invited to see how fiber art emboldens nature with color, textile and a tribute to Black History Month.
Inspired by the bright colors and patterns of African wax print fabrics, “InnerWoven” is a series of five large-format knits wrapped on tree trunks in downtown Fayetteville’s greenway, Cross Creek at Linear Park.

The temporary fabric installation highlights the importance of textiles and craftsmanship in Black culture. Brightly colored knitwork, black and white accents and unique three-dimensional elements are used to encourage the audience to get a closer look to spark their interest and highlight the importance of handcrafts.

Kia Love dedicated the installation to all of the strong African American women who have used fiber art as a way to heal themselves, to pass along stories about their lives and most importantly their history. For centuries, Black people were among the most skilled knitters, weavers and sewists in America known for their expertise in textiles and natural dyeing techniques. Women would gather regularly for after hour knitting and sewing circles as a way to create clothing for the community and to teach to the younger generation. Children as young as five would be taught the skill.

Love is a self-taught knitwear designer and fiber artist born and raised in Fayetteville. Her knitting journey began 19 years ago when she hit a creative rut and needed inspiration. Knitting was a way to challenge herself, regain focus and manage anxiety.

After graduating in 2015 from Queens University of Charlotte with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture, she decided to turn her passion for hobby into a business. She launched her brand Kia Love — a women’s knitwear and home decor brand. She specializes in fashionable accessories and home décor for the daring individual who loves bold color and texture. Her custom collections emphasize craftsmanship and feminine design.

Love is passionate about slow fashion, the healing powers of fiber arts and the importance of teaching sewing, knitting and textile design to others in her community. By sharing her gift, she strives to pass down a craft that seems to be lost in the digital age.

She aspires to educate others on the concept of quality over quantity and most importantly, having something of your own to turn to when the distractions of the world become too much.
“Innerwoven” was made possible by a grant from the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County's Mini Grant program. The Cool Spring Downtown District, Fayetteville’s managing partner for the Arts and Entertainment district, joined with the artist to bring this unique installation to life in celebration of women who have “Innerwoven” fabric as a means of clothing, warmth and comfort for centuries.

Visit “Innerwoven” at Cross Creek at Linear Park during Black History Month. For more information visit www.visitdowntownfayetteville.com or the artist’s website at www.kialove.com.

06 02 Urban Knitting Linear Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

06 03 Kia Loves InnerWoven2

CFRT classes give kids stage and life skills

06 3Cape Fear Regional Theatre began its studio classes Jan. 25 for children between the ages of 4 to 19.

The theatre is currently offering classes lasting seven weeks in musical theatre, acting, mini studio meant for 4 through 6-year-olds, and two new additions being the musical theatre dance and improv classes, Marc de la Concha, director of education for CFRT, said.

“The classes are half process based and half product based,” de la Concha said. “It’s not just getting together and rehearsing a couple of songs for the end show, we try to teach the kids a lot of skills for working in the theatre that will help them when they join us for a summer camp or when they audition for a show on a main stage.”

We try to give kids those skills which I believe add into their everyday lives like speaking in front of people, working as a team, reading skills and such, it’s a skill building and some product-based stuff meaning singing and dancing so you can show what you learnt throughout the class, he said.

The mini studios meant for younger kids focus on skills like standing in one place for more than a couple minutes, speak loud enough, be heard from the stage and are taught by me, Ashley Owen, marketing director and instructor for CFRT, said.

“This semester I am using Dr. Seuss books to teach them those skills and prepping them to go on to higher level classes,” she said.

During the spring break the kids will do their spring break bootcamp, where we will have them in small groups and do a version of the “Wizard of Oz,” it’s for the kids and won’t be open to the public, he said.

Owens said classes are once a week for an hour and half and cost $150 with the exception of the mini studio classes which are an hour long and cost $100.

The theatre offers military, sibling and multi-class discounts. Class size ranges from 10 to 15 kids in each class.

The class sizes are pretty small, so the kids get one-on-one instruction, and we keep it safe during the pandemic, de la Concha said.

“Lots of hand sanitizers and everyone’s got a mask on all the time,” Owen said.

Owens said it's been a tough year but they are lucky to have had great leadership at the theatre who put in the time to figure out things so kids could attend the summer camp program and these classes.

“Performing arts are important, you know, because we are learning in a different way than in school, learning empathy, learning about other people’s experiences, different cultures in a different way and I think it's important for kids to learn those skills,” de la Concha said. “And some learn these skills better this way than sitting in a school setting, it helps with team building and getting away from a screen and having actual interpersonal interactions.”

It’s been such a saving grace for me personally, I love the kids, getting to work with them, Owens said.

“It's just been so nice to see appreciate being together in a way that they or people didn't before the pandemic,” she said.

We are very excited for this year and anxiously waiting to be fully back in the theatre for education and for our mainstage season as well and hopefully we will be at the other end of this very soon, de la Concha said.

For more information on the classes and times, visit https://www.cfrt.org/education/#studio-classes

Profile of Vicki Rhoda: An artist and art educator

08 Title JudgedWriting an article on a work of art is complicated for many reasons. We each bring our own perceptions, bias and learned conventions when placing value or simply looking at a work of art. The complexity of contemporary art can include an additional layer — the ethnicity of the artist.

Making works of art and art criticism today is not simple, there are many questions one could ask for doing either activity. For me, when I think about the ethnicity of the artist and how to look at their work, Leo Segedin asks some of the right questions in his article titled "Outakes From Making It: Race, Gender and Ethnicity in the Artworld." He asks: “… Are there generally acceptable ideas about what constitutes aesthetic ‘quality’? Does each minority group have their own aesthetic standards, its own criteria?... Is there a common aesthetic within a minority that is only accessible to the minority? … What constitutes ‘minority’ art? Who defines the essence and social agenda of a feminist artist, a Latino or Black artist?”

Why anyone, minority or not, becomes an artist can be just as complex. The quotes by Vicki Rhoda, the featured artist for this special edition of Up & Coming Weekly, answer many of Segedin’s questions. The answers are found in why she became an educator, what is important to her in the classroom and why she is an artist.

Raised in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, Mrs. Mazie Bell Rhoda (Vicki’s mother), gave her a set of art supplies at the age of eleven years old. While at home, Vicki would sit on the steps and repeatedly draw and paint the small church across the street. To have a creative nature and be open minded is a wonderful attribute, but it was also the cause of some of the challenges in her life.

The direction of Rhoda’s life took hold when she was in high school, she met Ms. Peggy Webb, her art teacher. Not only was Ms. Webb an excellent teacher but she was also the only African American art teacher in Bladen County in the 80s. Inspired by an African American role model Rhoda’s direction in life was permanently altered on the path to become an artist and educator.

Since being inspired by Ms. Webb, Rhoda earned a bachelor's degree in Art at Fayetteville State University. She has taught art in the public schools for 23 years, grades K-12. For the last four years she has been on the faculty at FSU in the Department of Performing and Fine Arts teaching art education and core art classes after earning a Master of Art Education at the University of Florida. She has also earned an advanced degree as an Educational Specialist from Grand Canyon University. Rhoda is presently working to complete her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership K-12.

Rhoda stayed enthusiastic about teaching in public schools for 23 years. When she began teaching in the Bladen County public schools during the mid-90s Ms. Webb had relocated to another county and Rhoda became the only African American art teacher in the county.

Rhoda reflected on the lack diversity of the teachers in the Bladen County schools at that time and what a relief it was to be employed by the Cumberland County public school system. Finally she was in an educational environment where the teachers and students were equally diverse, she felt more comfortable, she could be herself.

No matter what school she was teaching in, Rhoda knew the importance of art in the public schools and witnessed the positive effects year after year. She shared with me: “Having art programs in the public schools is as important as math and science for many reasons. The myth is that art is simply recreational. Yet, taking an art class teaches the students diversity, global literacy, aesthetics, artists and art styles, and problem solving. Students leave an art class and see the world in a different way. Not only do they express themselves creatively, but they also can become personally transformed.”

She continued, “Certain assignments revealed many of the personal problems students were having at home or a tragedy they have suffered. When talking to the student about the assignment they felt safe about sharing an experience. Art gave them a voice they did not have. For many the arts is an outlet to succeed in ways they could not in core classes. When I left public schools, I hoped I could have touched the lives of students in ways that would make a difference in their sense of self-worth and I was able to open the door to understanding diversity.”

Rhoda was hired at FSU to recruit for and strengthen the art education program. After her first year in academe she redesigned the art education program by developing four new classes and eliminating some classes. The changes from teaching in the public schools for so many years to teaching students in higher education is a big leap for anyone. When asked about the transition she stated: “It was difficult. In middle and high school your approach to lesson plans is very different than higher education. Although you teach critical thinking in public schools, in higher education the analysis levels are so much higher. I am working with adults, so my language (personally and professionally) is very different. I’m happy to say the attention span of students at the university is lengthy compared to the public schools and is not only expected but required.”

Rhoda’s success as an art educator is partially due to being a practicing artist. By being an artist she can share her creative efforts; the students are able to see she is engaged in the creative process. It is the same creative process that began at the age of eleven when she drew and painted the church across the street repeatedly.

When asked why art remained so important to Rhoda, why she became an artist and to talk about her artistic style, she shared the following: “I was a very quiet child, while being creative I was reflective and thinking about so many things in my life. Art always gave me a voice to share what I could not do verbally. Later in life, around 1996, I learned a collage technique during a workshop and have continued to work in that media. The collage technique, in some ways, spoke to me. I could readily see images and myself in the layers of paper, I could relate it to my own life, and I saw ways to express my ideas. So what you are seeing in many of the earlier works is what I could not say out loud, but through the work.”

Rhoda continued, “In the beginning, I was trying to express who I am. Raised in a Southern Pentecostal Holiness Church, uniformity was stressed for men and women, but I always saw things differently than my family. Being an artist I found a way to express myself visually. Although my personal collages are about expressing who I am, it can still resonate with others who grew up in the South and
are Black.”

“I started my political work after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, I realized just being Black in America is political.
These are my experiences, being born Black is political, people in the southern Black community just handle it differently. The slogan Black Lives Matter is not new, we have been fighting for our lives to matter as long as I have been alive and historically. It is not OK to see color, yet due to social media, systemic racism is more evident. I always wanted my students to know everyone is important and we all bring something of value to enrich each other’s lives in many ways.”

The reasons Rhoda gives for becoming an artist answer some of Segedin’s questions. Making art is a form of self-realization and it gives people a voice to share experiences. If just being Black is political, no matter how some would deny it or be impatient with the statement, it is obvious that race, ethnicity, and visual culture are inextricably linked. Artists draw from their identity to create awareness for different reasons, some create to influence change in American culture.

In closing, works of art by some minority artists and other artists can be complicated and even some of Segedin’s questions are folly. We cannot characterize all works of art during the period in which they are being made. Ultimately, we can know some truths about works of art, but we cannot know all truths. It behooves us to stay openminded to why artists are creating works of art, search for a truth and new meaning. In the end, the history of art will often look like what we did not understand at the time.

Pictured: "Judged" by Vicki Rhoda.

'Monument to Strangers: Photographs of Johanna Warwick' New exhibit opens at Gallery 208

01 01 Printed Woman 8The new exhibit at Gallery 208, “Monument to Strangers: Photographs of Johanna Warwick”, opens Feb. 2 5:30 p.m. Visitors to the exhibition will see a body of work by an artist who utilizes a minimalist approach to comment on cultural history and how obsolete processes can inform and continue to shape perceptions about Americana.

British born but raised in Canada, Warwick works and lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Monument to Strangers” is the result of Warwick researching and recontextualized daily printed newspapers photographs from the 1880s to the 1960s. Visitors to the gallery will see large scale portraits which have been “recontextualized” to reveal Warwick’s truth, “images affect our understanding of cultural history.”

“Monuments to Strangers” also includes smaller works inspired by the process of image making during an early period in the history of commercial photography and printing. Warwick noted, “it was the first time in history, images of reality could be reproduced on presses reaching the public, rather than an image interpreted and altered by hand.”

We are fortunate in the area to be able to see works by a contemporary photographer who does not live in our region and an artist whose approach is conceptual. As with many conceptual works of art, visitors do not need to know the artist’s intent, but knowing the intent most often enhances a different type of experience than not knowing the meaning or purpose of the work. (For that reason, Gallery 208 always posts artist’s statements throughout the exhibit.)

A prelude to visiting the gallery is best said by Warwick: “In this work, I utilize news images and materially re-contextualize them to emphasize the limitations of photography as an emotionally and factually accurate record of the time. I combine analogue and digital processes to underscore the ways in which news photographs have been produced and how that production affects our understanding of cultural history. The photographs look at the selective representation of the individual within printed daily newspapers from the 1880s to the 1960s.”

Seeing the overly large portraits, 24” x 36,” viewers should be aware Warwick has been inspired by anonymity and through this body of work wanted to “ highlight how women and minorities were vastly underrepresented.” In creating this body of work the artist is “re-presenting these images in hopes to reveal and question our flawed history. The figures in the blocks are unknown, but they were at one point important, or significant enough, to have their image produced in this way. The images reveal how versions of history were presented publicly… I don’t seek to make a document as they were used before, but to photograph them as visual monuments. During this period in history, Men are photographed abundantly; women are few and far between.”

The exhibit also includes exquisite traditional still-lifes, created by using the outdated blocks of commercial printing as a subject. In these small works the artist is showing us an antiquated process while using new technology. Warwick noted:

“I am photographing them to present this historic process and lost imagery in a new way, using the technologies that made them obsolete. In re-photographing these images, my photographs are several iterations of light sensitive materials being exposed: the original photograph, the rephotographed negative, the photomechanical produced block, and my exposure. Each image thus goes from a positive, to a negative, recorded once again as a negative, then inverted to a positive. It is in this long chain of events, which traverses over decades, that the glow of light and color occurs. Together I strive for the photographs to describe the history of representation in American daily newspapers, as well as the history of photography.”

Warwick’s minimalist approach and the medium of photography itself often seems to lend itself to hurrying us hurries through an exhibit, we move too quickly, without contemplation. Due to the elusive nature of photography, the opposite needs to take place. The illusive nature of photography is combining the complexity of a contemporary art in the form of photography with its lingering history, everyone has a camera on their cell phone, and the ever-present hierarchical judgment of photography against other traditional disciplines.

The unfounded hierarchy and the fact the everyone have a camera on their cell phone only strengthens my revered respect for artists, like Warwick, who create remarkable photographic images equal to works of carved marble. The argument against the hierarchy in the arts is based on two facts. The hierarchical position has been outdated for some and each discipline is innately different and brings a particular way of seeing, ideating, and set of skills.

An earlier series by Warwick titled “Between the Ground & Sky” supports the above argument. In this body of Warwick wanted to capture the changing landscape of the Danby Marble Quarry in Dorset Mountain, Vermont. (The Danby Quarry, used since the 18th century, is the largest underground marble quarry in the world.)

She began photographing the marble because she was “curious about its use but eventually became charmed by the physical history carved into the space.” She states: “The heavy unyielding material takes a geometric form inside a huge organic landscape. I am fascinated by the constant metamorphosis of the space . . . Each method of removal has left an indelible impression on the mountain by destroying its natural state and creating a geometric and ordered new landscape. These are the qualities that I find both interesting and intriguing. I am fascinated by its now formal beauty.”

The conceptualization and dexterity by Warwick to create her photographs should not be compared to the idea and carving of figure in stone. Each medium brings is own innate qualities and challenges. If anything, the history of photography is far more interesting than representational figure carving that has been repeated and practiced in western art for centuries. Or, as John Berger, in “Ways of Seeing,” summarizes: “unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does.”

Johanna Warwick graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with an MFA in Photography in 2010, and from Ryerson University with a BFA in Photography in 2006. She has been an Assistant Professor of Art & Photography at Louisiana State University since 2015 and exhibited in New York, Toronto and other major cities across North America. She was exhibited in Fresh at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, and was a selected artist by Lesley A. Martin as part of her Guest Room curating for Der Greif magazine.

In all types of disciplines art has the potential to bring a truth to the viewer and “Monument to Strangers: Photographs of Johanna Warwick,” meets this criterion. “Monuments to Strangers” opens Feb. 2 at 5:30 p.m. and will remain up until April. The gallery is located at 208 Rowan Street in Fayetteville and is open Monday – Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For information call 910-484-6200.

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